Kelly McLaughlan is a DC-area Interactive Marketing expert and Google Adwords Professional who is CEO and founder of KME Internet Marketing, and CEO and co-founder of the recently-launched Fulcrum Marketing Group – both firms located in Northern Virginia.
WashingtonExec got the chance to talk with McLaughlan, uncovering practical advice and timely strategies for businesses, government entities and nonprofits promoting their goods and services on the Internet.
Read on below to see what McLaughlan has to say about social media and online strategizing.
WashingtonExec: It seems like the Metro DC online marketplace is extremely competitive for local businesses – is it?
Kelly McLaughlan: We’ve found that the amount of time and resources required for investment in DC area Internet marketing and advertising really depends on the industry segment, and in some cases is very locality-driven. For example, to gain superior visibility and attract new customers online as a real estate agent or home services provider – this is extremely competitive, and a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on daily or weekly monitoring. Government service providers and local nonprofits will cluster their marketing attention and spend around procurement cycles, fundraising events or civic campaigns – so you get intense competition in bursts. For businesses like private schools, dentists, restaurants – these can be really competitive within very tight geographic boundaries, that aren’t necessarily defined by government or zipcode boundaries, but are defined by neighborhoods or other drivers of local affinity (i.e. “hyperlocal”). Some B2C or B2B providers (especially medium-sized, regional businesses) can still very quickly gain competitive advantage and own their market share of online visibility; but it takes a very well-balanced and experienced orchestration of local marketing tactics.
WashingtonExec: “Orchestration of local marketing tactics” – such as?
Kelly McLaughlan: At KME, our core service is SEO or “Search Engine Optimization”. This means placing very high in search engine results for terms (a.k.a. “keywords”) that matter to your business, your customers. This core discipline of SEO is then strategically extended across all search engines, social media channels, marketing campaigns online and offline – in a way that takes best advantage of the most appropriate mechanism for the target audience.
One business may be very successful with Facebook and Twitter, but not sell the sort of thing that a lot of articles or blog entries can be written about. Another business may be very technical and easy to highlight across a variety of unique search terms and professional search engines – but doesn’t lend itself well to social interaction or marketing.”
Some areas of DC, Maryland or Northern Virginia respond well to paid search ads, but don’t really pay attention to social media. It really takes local marketing expertise and well-informed, professional strategy to create or purchase the best mix of marketing content, channel and frequency. We also run our own network of content sites, social media and mobile channels, offering additional exposure and highlighting client business reviews, offers and events.
WashingtonExec: What’s the best way to use professional networking sites, like LinkedIn, to promote a local business?
Kelly McLaughlan: The WashingtonExec audience is no doubt already familiar with the importance and success that comes with regular contact updates, participation in discussion groups and personal profile upkeep. These activities enhance your personal profile, expose your expertise, and enable new relationships that may lead to future business opportunities. Connect with everyone you meet, except the spammers. Your business also needs to maintain its “personality” and profile on LinkedIn – via business pages and all the content optimization tools enabled for managers of these pages. What’s probably most important is that your activities on LinkedIn be integrated across the various channels – i.e. your posts, your discussions and groups, your links, your pages; they should always be fresh, relevant and cumulatively support any marketing or messaging objective you have. Your content and interactions, however, should be “socially professional” – not artificial or sounding like an advertisement, but not overly-social or personal.
WashingtonExec: Is there an online marketing tactic we don’t know about yet, but should?
Kelly McLaughlan: We’re always keeping an eye on the trends and changes to search platforms that aren’t Google or Bing – for example, searching within Facebook, within Twitter, within Amazon or other eCommerce or consumer content networks.
While Google is still the big kahuna for gaining undisputed visibility online, both for “organic” and paid searches – I find my kids, for example, operating all day long on their cellphones and computers without ever going to Google (even for school assignments)…searching (or just asking) their social circles for advice, content, ideas.”
So while an answer for businesses is still “create great, unique content for the search engines to index”, it’s also more and more frequently “create great, unique content that’s shareable and easily findable across the media channels your users actually use”.
WashingtonExec: How did you develop your expertise?
Kelly McLaughlan: The long story involves a stroller accessory patent and a computer training service for kids, which I’ll save for another time. The shorter story evolves from my systems engineering and “Big 6” (PriceWaterhouseCoopers and EDS) project management background, plus proficiency with financial analytics – which I translated into Google Adwords and Analytics skills for some early, individual clients as I re-entered the workforce following the “toddler years”. My husband (an Enterprise Information Architect for companies including Accenture and Oracle) and I gained clients and grew our expertise in Interactive Marketing through hundreds of web design, development and online marketing gigs, keeping up to date with the rapidly changing trends in social media, search engine algorithms, coupon sites and online advertising networks. Now our business is composed of a very talented, local ecosystem of employees, partners and contractors, delivering current, relevant marketing and advertising solutions ranging from national ad network buys to social media strategies and video marketing. Our clients come up at the top of any search results for their Loudoun, Fairfax, Northern Virginia or DC services – it takes hard work and a lot of time, but there’s always a strategy that will be helpful.